What is a Labrador Retriever?
Let’s review some of the basic facts surrounding this beautiful large dog.
Appearance and Temperament
The Labrador is a large dog that stands about 23 - 25 inches from paw to shoulder. They generally weigh between 60 - 85 lbs. They come in various colors; yellow, black, and chocolate. The Lab is an active dog that needs plenty of exercise and daily engagement. The dog has a family-friendly temperament, bonds with all family members, and accommodates other pets and small children. You will find the dog eager to please and fairly easy to train, although they can become distracted if not forced to stay on task. You should plan on at least an hour of intense exercise a day.
A word of caution - Labradors love to dig. Part of the reason is that fresh dirt is cooler and helps lower their body temperatures in the summer heat. So, if your backyard is about to win the HOA award, you might want to reconsider. The other reason is that the Labrador is very, very social and will love to play with the dog in the next yard - so you can expect it to dig under a fence or find a way to climb over a typical chain-link fence just to spend time. This trait can also mean disaster if your dog is not spayed or neutered.
History of Breed
The Labrador began as a hunting and fishing mate breed in the Newfoundland wilderness of Canada. Raised as a fetcher and retriever, the dog was an excellent canine for braving the cold waters and more frigid temperatures. It has a double coat designed to repel water (outercoat) while maintaining body heat with an insulated covering of fur next to the skin (inner coat). The Labrador has an enlarged tail that acts as a rudder in the water, helping to steer it towards the retrieval target. Labradors are large, active dogs with no fear of water. They love to frolic in it.
Many labradors have trained as gundogs and service dogs for non-profits and disabled owners. While these dogs need extra training to be a good fit, the Labrador's intelligence and gentle, friendly nature can lend themselves to being an excellent companion to the autistic or disabled community.
The AKC recognized the Labrador in 1917 and currently lists three different kinds of Labs; Yellow, Black, and Chocolate. Breeders have been crossing the bloodlines with lots of other designer dog breeds, but very few of these are sanctioned under AKC guidelines. This lack of acceptance is designed to keep the bloodlines as pure as possible, but it also means that many Labradors gracing families' homes will never be show dogs, no matter how designer they might be. In 1991, the Labrador became the number one most registered puppy and had held that spot ever since.
Due to the double coat, Labradors are not the dog you want to adopt if you suffer from allergies. They shed a lot. Generally, the shedding of their inner coat happens twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall, but hair displacement can be more than a family with breathing conditions wants to handle. While there are things that you can do to manage the constant shedding, like through diet, or more frequent bathing, many families bring home a Lab just to find that they cannot keep them due to the excessive pet dander filling their nostrils.
You should plan to brush your Labrador twice to three times a week.
How To Choose the Right Labrador Puppy for Your Family
What are some things you should do to help choose the right Labrador puppy for your family?
Determine if a Labrador is a Right Fit for Your Family.
The first step is to consider whether a Lab puppy is the right dog breed for your family. Here are some questions that you might want to ponder before rushing down to the neighbor’s house to view their new litter of lab puppies.
- Labradors are large dogs that require a minimum of an hour a day of outdoor exercise. Are you able to commit to this kind of time commitment every day?
- If your family suffers from breathing issues, is a Lab’s tendency toward excessive shedding really the best thing for your family?
- Are you willing to undertake the training time necessary to house break a Lab and keep them from ruining the kitchen cabinets once they’ve decided that is their favorite toilet spot?
- Do you live in a city where green space is almost nonexistent?
- Are you willing to make the financial commitment regarding dog food (Labs love to eat), vet visits, boarding costs if you are away, toys, or even replanting flowers that Labs will invariably dig up?
I am not saying that any of these dispositions cannot be overcome or managed, but most families forget the things that inherently come with adopting a pet. This is why many pets get adopted, kept for a few weeks, and then returned to a shelter. People just underestimate the amount of work raising a puppy requires.
Research Both Bloodlines
Understanding the characteristics of a labrador is one thing. Still, because it always takes two to tango, there is another bloodline that can significantly affect a puppy’s disposition. Is the other parent a Labrador, or are they a different breed? (Currently, over 50 different breeds have been bred with Labradors). While each of these Lab Mixes is a unique and special canine, at times, the traits of the other bloodline can become dominant, and the result can be either heaven or heartache for the family trying to raise it.
For example, if the Labrador is a Chow/Lab mix, this breed can lend itself to being aggressive or anti-social. They were raised as guard dogs and tended not to do well with other pets. While it is impossible to know what the extract disposition of your new puppy will be until they grow older, It is helpful to know what might happen.
Below is a chart of many different breeds being crossed with Labrador
As you can see, there are lot of qualities to consider when adopting a Lab Mix. Planning can help you adjust training to avoid many ingrown behaviors that might emerge from the other bloodline.
Inquire about Health Issues and What a Vet May Have Tested For.
This is a crucial step that often is overlooked. You should have some confidence from a breeder, shelter, or even a neighbor that a registered veterinarian has screened the puppies. Most breeders are happy to provide this information, and many shelters have included neutering or spaying and basic shots before adoption. (often, they will include these items in the adoption fees they charge. If possible, take advantage of any shots the seller is willing to include and insist a vaccination record be provided.
Ask if either of the parents has had any kind of health issues. This question can give you insight into potential health issues their offspring might suffer from as they turn into adults.
For example, if the dog has dysplasia tendencies, the chances are that its offspring might suffer from the same condition. The last thing you want is to adopt a puppy only to find that you are a frequent visitor to the vet for a medical condition the breeder knew about but didn’t inform you. For a review of health issues of various breeds of Lab mix dogs, see petmd.com.
Be Careful about Who You Buy From
While many excellent breeders across the country, many puppy mills have unsanitary conditions. You want to have some confidence about the integrity of the person you purchase the new puppy from. If you know the neighbor and trust that they are honest with you, great. Then proceed. But if you are hesitant, or if your online research of a breeder leaves you suspect, you might want to move on.
One of the ways to ensure your confidence is to make a visual inspection of the conditions in which the animals have been raised. Plan a visit to the breeder's location to see how the animals are treated. (Any breeder who offers to meet you in a local parking lot with the puppy should probably send red flags up and be avoided).
A visual inspection of cleanliness (remember to provide some allowances for dogs pooping) can help you understand how dedicated a breeder or a shelter is to the welfare of the animals it offers for adoption or sale. You want to find a breeder or a shelter that cares as much for the dogs as you do. For help adopting a pet from a reputable shelter see ascpa.org
In addition, an on-site inspection of the breeder’s facility or neighbor's home will help you meet at least one of the parents, and you can gauge their disposition as you interact with them.
Watch for social skills. Is that parent stand-offish, or are they friendly toward you, a stranger? Do they bark when a stranger walks up, bears teeth and growls? Is that parent well-groomed, or are they a mixed breed of who knows what?
Get Equipped Before Bringing Puppy Home
The quickest way to frustration is to find you need essential equipment after bringing the puppy home. Once you have decided to get a puppy, go to the pet store and purchase basic supplies like bowls, a watering dish, a bed, dog food, and a couple of chew toys. This trip to the store will get you into spending money on your puppy, which you will do a lot over the next few years. In addition, it is a good test of how willing you are to open your wallet for this new little bundle of joy. If you can spend the money without becoming a neurotic mess, congratulations, you’ve passed the final test to be a bonafide pet owner.
For a listing of items you need to secure, check out the article in nytimes.com
About THE AUTHOR
Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.Read more about Mark Brunson